House Republicans Urge ATF to Abandon Restrictions on Stabilizing Braces

By Li Hai
Li Hai
Li Hai
Li Hai is a New York-based reporter for The Epoch Times.
July 17, 2021 Updated: July 17, 2021

House Judiciary Committee GOP members called on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to abandon its proposed restrictions on stabilizing braces, calling its proposed rule a “flagrant effort to restrict Americans’ fundamental Second Amendment rights.”

“We have serious concerns about the attempt by [ATF] to regulate firearms with stabilizing braces. ATF’s regulatory notice is deeply flawed, beyond the scope of its authority, contrary to years of previous ATF opinions, and harmful to millions of law-abiding American firearm owners,” the Republicans said in a letter dated July 16 to ATF’s Acting Director Marvin Richardson.

All 19 GOP committee members—including the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)—signed the letter.

On June 7, Attorney General Merrick Garland signed a rule proposed by ATF, entitled, “Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached ‘Stabilizing Braces.’”

AR-15 style rifles are displayed for sale at Firearms Unknown, a gun store in Oceanside, Calif., on April 12, 2021. (Bing Guan/Reuters)

Under the rule, any weapon with a rifled barrel and equipped with an attached stabilizing brace that indicates that the firearm is designed to be fired from the shoulder would be classified as a rifle.

ATF stressed that the rule would not affect stabilizing braces that are not for shouldering the weapon as a rifle because those stabilizing braces “are designed to conform to the arm and not as a buttstock.”

The Republicans claimed ATF’s criteria are “vague and not well-defined” and would allow ATF to make determinations on a case-by-case basis rather than providing an objective set of standards for firearm owners and manufacturers.

“Even worse, ATF’s proposed rule goes well beyond the authority granted to the agency in any applicable federal statutes,” the letter continues. “ATF seeks to subject stabilizing braces to [the Gun Control Act] criminal penalties and [the National Firearms Act] regulation without Congressional prohibition of the underlying activity.”

ATF’s proposed rule is also “arbitrary and capricious” and contradicts ATF’s previous opinions, the letter claimed.

“If implemented, ATF’s proposed rule has the potential to turn three to four million law-abiding firearm owners into felons,” the letter read.

The Republicans noted that according to one estimate, there are between ten to forty million stabilizing braces in circulation.

ATF estimated in the proposed rule that 3 million stabilizing braces had been sold since 2013.

“ATF’s regulation would amount to an unconstitutional infringement of fundamental Second Amendment rights,” the GOP members said. “We strongly urge ATF to abandon its proposed rule issued on June 7, 2021.”

The Republicans also demanded the reasoning and details of the proposed rule and requested answers by July 30.

April Langwell, Chief of ATF’s Public Affairs Division, told The Epoch Times that the agency had received the subject letter, “however, we cannot comment on communications between the agency [and] Congress.”

The proposed rule has been published for public notice and comment as required by law. The comment period will end on Sept. 8.

On June 14, Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) and 140 GOP House Representatives also called on the Department of Justice and ATF to withdraw the rule. Over a week later, 48 Senate Republicans made the same request.

In December, ATF proposed similar guidance on stabilizing braces but abandoned it after receiving over 60,000 comments largely in opposition to the guidance.

Li Hai
Li Hai is a New York-based reporter for The Epoch Times.